"Ever since we started," says singer Nick Peill, "we've been drawn to dark, almost pagan qualities, to baroque, medieval melodies, and a general air of melancholy. I think it's fair to say that our songs are not necessarily sunny creations..."
"But that's definitely a good thing," adds guitarist Jamie Puttnam, sitting beside him. "We do deal in darker subjects, and I think bittersweet emotion is often so much more affecting than anything else, don't you?"
The pair of them nod their heads in mutual agreement, their fraternal bonhomie juxtaposed with a brooding gravitas that clearly informs so much of who they are. It suits them rather nicely, for this is a band that is unusually captivating. The more you play their debut album, the more irresistible it becomes.
Fields have history. A quintet comprising Nick on vocals and Jamie on guitars, alongside Matty Derham on bass, Henry Spenner on drums and Icelandic-born Thorunn Antonia on vocals and keyboards, they came together in the autumn of 2005 from very disparate corners of their respective - well, fields. Nick had been in various bands over the previous decade, but more recently had trained as a primary school teacher.
"It was a vocation, I suppose," he agrees, "and one that would have provided career stability. But then music, my other prevailing vocation, was reignited when Jamie and I began seriously considering collaborating together." He smiles. "So I ditched the kids, and started writing songs again."
Jamie had also served time in various groups throughout the 1990s.
When they first came together 18 months ago, they had only a vague idea what Fields would go on to sound like, and that's because the band was to be a true democracy, all ideas taken on board.
"Between us, we like everything from minimal electronic ambience to folk acts like Pentangle," says Nick.
"...And Elliott Smith, The Cure," adds Jamie. "We wanted to become an unconscious melting pot of all kinds of styles."
Which, duly, they did, forming their increasingly impressive sound throughout a 2006 spent on the live circuit, not just here in the UK, but also America and Japan, where they began to rely increasingly on the visual element of the band. < br>"We'd fill the stage with plastic crows and foam deer," Nick says, "to add more dimensions. We have plans now to develop our lighting further, and maybe project films while we play."
Deeply unsettling, horror-based films, presumably?
"Possibly," he smiles. "Yes."
If atmosphere and mood is everything for Fields, then the chosen location for the recording of Everything Last Winter couldn't have worked out better, adding a depth to the album no one could quite have expected. It also saddled then with something of a curse, but we'll come to that later.
"We recorded it in Dublin, in a studio underneath Temple Bar," Jamie says. "It was in this ancient cellar that was once used by [former Irish revolutionary] Michael Collins, with tunnels connecting it to his castle. The whole place was steeped with history, but it was very dark, very atmospheric and oppressive. Oh, and always damp."
The lack of natural lights may well have prompted cabin fever among the members, but this just made them play with even more intensity. It's a fully three-dimensional thing, Everything Last Winter, its songs both subtle and sparse and full of sonic crescendo. The opening Song For The Fields begins with a whisper, a gentle folk rhythm that rises exponentially in volume until, two minutes in, it gets thrown into a spin cycle of guitar aggression and conflicting boy/girl vocals, and ending after six minutes in an exhausted, magnificent heap. Feathers is also the perfect coalition of gentle folk and indie malevolence, Thorunn's voice a thing of gentle timidity that gets caught up in a nightmare of noise. They do this kind of thing very well, only to then confound expectations with the closing Parasite, a song far prettier in tone than its title suggests, but with a lyric about the slow death of a relationship that pulls no punches, and is all the more startling for it.
And what of the curse that befell the band during its creation? It appears that they came across a discarded copy of the American trash rag National Inquirer on the floor of the studio one night, and were taken by an article about the purported powers of the cut-out-and-keep blue circle.
"This thing would apparently magically help struggling novelists complete their book or help people find their fortunes," Jamie says. "And so Nick cut it out to see what it would do for us. But the second - and I mean the very second - we put it up on the desk, the speakers blew out. It was the most frightening thing, horribly eerie."
"And then, over the next 24 hours," Nick adds, "six or seven key bits of equipment that we desperately needed all packed up and refused to work. Even when we took them out of the confines of the studio, we still had problems with them. It was very strange."
But one that, along with the claustrophobia of the recording sessions and the general disposition of these five quite distinct individuals, greatly helped transform Everything Last Winter into a thing of unusual wonder and rhapsodic splendour. One of the songs here is called Skulls And Flesh And More. Unusual ingredients for an album, perhaps, but then so much more visceral and, ultimately, impressive than the usual blood, sweat and tears.
Fields have arrived. Savour them. - Atlantic Records